Board Briefs: IUSD looks to get the word out and collect input on proposed solar canopies

The IUSD Board of Education on Tuesday approved an expanded communications plan to solicit feedback on a proposal to harness solar power at up to 12 additional Irvine campuses.

In the days and weeks ahead, the district will mail notices to residents and neighborhoods within a quarter-mile radius of the dozen sites being considered for parking canopies outfitted with solar panels, and more detailed information will be posted on the IUSD website, which already features an online input form. We’ll also continue to post updates here on the IUSD NewsFlash, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

You may recall that the proposal represents the second phase of an ambitious campaign to save money, promote sustainability and bolster IUSD’s energy curriculum by leveraging solar power districtwide.

The first phase, which added rooftop photovoltaic panels and parking lot canopies to 13 schools and two district sites in 2010 and 2011, is now producing $220,000 in annual savings through a power-purchasing agreement with SunEdison. In addition, Irvine students are able to track their school’s energy consumption in real time as part of a new curricular component.

Phase 2 now centers on 12 schools that were unable to accommodate rooftop solar panels. The board is specifically deciding whether to place vehicle shade structures outfitted with energy-producing solar tiles in the parking lots of Alderwood, Canyon View, Oak Creek, Stonegate and Woodbury elementary schools; Vista Verde School; Sierra Vista Middle School; Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools; and the new Jeffrey Trail Middle School. (To access renderings of the proposals, or to make suggestions via IUSD’s online input form, click here.)

The projected savings from Phase 2 is approximately $380,000 a year, with a 20-year savings of between $5 million and $11 million.

Though the second phase came up for a vote in May, board members took note of the limited public response and questioned whether more could have been done to generate feedback before asking staff to bring back a recommendation for new communication strategies.

Mark Sontag, IUSD’s administrative lead on the project, presented that recommendation on Tuesday, as well as a revised list of the schools under consideration. Among the suggested notification strategies was a proposal to send fliers to all addresses and homeowners’ associations within a quarter-mile radius of each school. Board members favored casting an even larger net, directing the district to include other homes that share a neighborhood with those in the quarter-mile zone. After a discussion that included comments from members of the public, the motion passed.

Sontag said the additional feedback will be collected and tallied over the next few weeks. Phase 2 of IUSD’s solar initiative is expected to be brought to the board for a vote on July 10.

Also on Tuesday, the board honored this year’s Classified Employees of the Year, recognized the 2011-12 student board members and capped a year’s worth of facilities work with the approval of a comprehensive Facilities Master Plan, which was crafted to guide building and modernization decisions over the next 10 to 20 years.